People who suddenly reach into a pocket or purse and pull out a phone to answer it might not actually be doing what they appear to be doing. Maybe they just don't want to talk to you.
According to a study entitled, "Americans and their cell phones," by Pew Research, released August 15, among U.S. adults surveyed, 13% acknowledge having used their cell phones at least once in the past 30 days to avoid interacting with someone. I suspect that percentage would have been much greater if the survey had included other motivations, such as wanting to appear to be important or busy, showing off a new high-status phone, wanting to move to a more private setting where one is less likely to be observed, or any of dozens of other motivations.
Since deceivers are not always clever enough to pull off their deceptions, you can sometimes detect the deception if you're aware of the more common mistakes they make. For example, a typical error associated with the I'm-answering-my-phone ploy described above is forgetting to disable the ring tone. Nothing looks sillier than talking into a cell phone that suddenly begins to ring. When you see this happen, it's probable that a deception was underway. And if you suspect this deception, you can test your conjecture by calling the person on your phone, if you have their number. If you hear the physical phone ring, then it wasn't engaged.
Here is Part I of a little catalog of examples of deceptions involving the telephone, and some methods for detecting them.
- Circumventing personal cell phone bans
- When using personal cell phones is banned at work, some use this ploy: Make the call, put the cell phone on speaker or use a blue tooth earpiece, then pick up the desk phone without making a call on it, and continue the conversation on the cell phone. They then appear to be speaking on the desk phone.
- A typical mistake is to forget to warn, or fail to warn, the called party that the cell phone is on speaker.
- Phone borrowers
- Someone If you need an excuse to leave a
meeting early, having an actual
call come in on your phone
is usually good enoughwho wants to borrow your phone to make a call might actually make a call, but they might also want to have a look at your recent calls.
- Borrowers rarely forget that you can watch what they do. Lending someone your phone is not a good idea, but at least you'll know what number they called.
- Faking incoming calls
- If you need an excuse to leave a meeting early, having an actual call come in on your phone is usually good enough. With a scripting language like AppleScript, and a Skype account, you can easily arrange it.
- Common mistake: forgetting to blank the screen and mute the sound of the computer that runs the script. Anyone passing by, with enough knowledge, can easily figure out what's happening.
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About Point Lookout
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More articles on Workplace Politics:
- Telephonic Deceptions: II
- Deception at work probably wasn't invented at work. Most likely it is a continuation of deception in
the rest of life. But the technologies of the modern workplace offer new opportunities to practice the
art. Here's Part II of a handy guide for telephonic self-defense.
- Stone-Throwers at Meetings: I
- One class of disruptions in meetings includes the tactics of stone-throwers — people who exploit
low-cost tactics to disrupt the meeting and distract all participants so as to obstruct progress. How
do they do it, and what can the meeting chair do?
- Workplace Politics and Social Exclusion: I
- In the workplace, social exclusion is the practice of systematically excluding someone from activities
in which they would otherwise be invited to participate. When used in workplace politics, it's ruinous
for the person excluded, and expensive to the organization.
- Facts, Opinions, Estimates, and Desires
- One reason why resource allocation debates can become so difficult is confusion about the differences
among facts, opinions, estimates, and desires. Clarifying their differences can reduce the length and
intensity of resource allocation debates.
- The Politics of Forming Joint Leadership Teams
- Some teams, business units, or enterprises are led not by individuals, but by joint leadership teams
of two or more. They face special risks that arise from both the politics of the joint leadership team
and the politics of the organization hosting it.
Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
- Coming September 27: On Working Breaks in Meetings
- When we convene a meeting to work a problem, we sometimes find that progress is stalled. Taking a break to allow a subgroup to work part of the problem can be key to finding simple, elegant solutions rapidly. Choosing the subgroup is only the first step. Available here and by RSS on September 27.
- And on October 4: Self-Importance and Conversational Narcissism at Work: I
- Conversational narcissism is a set of behaviors that participants use to focus the exchange on their own self-interest rather than the shared objective. This post emphasizes the role of these behaviors in advancing a narcissist's sense of self-importance. Available here and by RSS on October 4.
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Beware any resource that speaks of "winning" at workplace politics or "defeating" it. You can benefit or not, but there is no score-keeping, and it isn't a game.